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Illegal VoIP

Tk240 cr revenue loss: Accused released on bail flees country

By Special Correspondent
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Bangladesh Telecommunication Regulatory Commission has taken a dillydallying attitude to submit final report of a case in which an IGW (international gateway) and another ICX (interconnection exchange) company had swallowed over Tk 240 crore government revenue making thousands of illegal international calls.

Following a couple of cases, the top officials of IGW Company Vision Tel and ICX Company Cloud Tel, Md Shariful Islam and Ayrin Islam, husband and wife, were arrested by the Criminal Investigation Department of police and sent to jail.
The authorities concerned also had seized their Bangladesh passports. But a few months later, both of them secured bail from the High Court. After that Ayrin Islam, Chairman of the said companies, fled away from the country using a Canadian passport. Earlier, both of them were denied bail from the country's lower court.

The duo, Md Shariful Islam and Ayrin Islam, are also Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer respectively of another company Ring ID, being operated from Canada.

When contacted, BTRC Chairman Dr Shahjahan Mahmood told The New Nation on Monday: "So far I know, they are barred from leaving the country. I can't tell just now how Ayrin Islam could leave the country." About the final investigation report, the Chairman said he is yet to receive it. "We're not delaying intentionally. The report will be prepared soon…..I hope to realize the government's Tk 240 crore revenue." 

Allegations were raised against them for making illegal international calls using Teletalk number series 01515 and for not paying yearly license fees, profit share and late fees amounting to over Tk 240 crore.

Particularly, specific allegations were raised against Cloud Tel for making illegal international calls using Teletalk prefix. The commission also cancelled the license of Cloud Tel. Out of Tk 240crore, the government is supposed to get Tk 191 crore from Vision Tel and the rest from Cloud Tel.
Shariful Islam, CEO of the two companies, is now staying in the country under round-the clock surveillance of the law enforcement agencies.

When contacted, Investigating Officer of BTRC Kawser Ahmed told The New Nation recently the regulatory body is still not sure when the final report will be submitted. "We're not delaying to submit the final report. Actually, we're trying to get more accurate information about the accused persons. It is still at investigation stage," he said.

The authority concerned is yet to nab two other accused of the case for the reasons best known to them. The BTRC had filed the case against four persons, including Shariful Islam, under Telecommunication ACT, 2001 and Public Demand Recovery Act, 1913 to get back the government's money. Besides, a criminal case was also lodged against them.

When asked about the exit of a bailed accused, the IO said: "We've heard that Ayrin Islam fled away to Canada showing a foreign passport. We're informed that she at first went to Canada and later went to Dubai for shopping. She also uploaded some photographs on the facebook from Dubai. We're investigating it. We've also informed the matter to the Special Branch and the airport immigration."

Sources close to the BTRC said the accused are very influential persons and represent some highly powerful and moneyed men having connections with political and bureaucratic circles.

In the process started in 2012, two then Awami League ministers and a Bangladeshi born Singaporean citizen were directly involved with this business. One of the owners of Vision Tel SM Asif Sams who is son of Awami League leader and former State Minister for Home Affairs Shamshul Hoque Tuku. Another one Iffat Hossain, daughter of former Communication Minister Syed Abul Hossain owned 50 per cent stake in the Cloud Tel.

The Singaporean citizen, M Badiuzzamna, was made Chairman of Vision Tel when SM Asif Sams sold his share and left the country. In 2013, M Badiuzzamna sold his total shares of Vision Tel to the accused Shariful Islam. In the same process, Shariful and his wife Ayrin became owners of another company Cloud Tel, sources said.

Against this backdrop, Director General of BTRC AKMShahiduzzaman told The New Nation recently, "We'll take legal action if she [Ayrin Islam] fled the country using another passport."

Officials said that it is almost impossible to bring back any absconding person by the BTRC with its limited capability.

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